Whether you are cooking in your own backyard, at a picnic area or in a campground, being aware of outdoor cooking safety practices and procedures will help to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe from food-borne illnesses and injuries caused from cooking accidents.
Outdoor Cooking Safety
When you think of cooking safely outdoors you may think about the right way to light a grill or the correct procedure for extinguishing a dinnertime campfire. Although those are both very important aspects of safe outdoor cooking, many people do not realize that when cooking outdoors, safety measures need to begin as soon as the food is taken out of the refrigerator, freezer or pantry.
Food Safety Tips
- When transporting raw meat or chicken, always keep the food in secure plastic containers or bags to prevent cross-contamination onto other foods.
- Pack the food from the refrigerator directly into the cooler. Do not leave it out on the table or counter.
- Keep cold food cold to prevent the growth of bacteria on the food. Use a cooler that is insulated with ice packs or ice to keep the temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Keep the cooler in a sheltered or shaded area. Open the lid as little as possible to keep the cold air inside.
- To cook poultry and meat evenly, thaw it completely before grilling.
- If you partially cook any food in the oven, microwave, or on the stovetop to reduce the time it takes to cook the food on the grill, always take the food immediately to a preheated grill to complete the cooking process. Never allow the meat to cool before it is finished cooking.
- Never partially cook poultry or meat on a grill to finish cooking it at a later time.
- Poultry and meat cooked on a grill often looks cooked as the outside browns quickly. Always cook all poultry and meat until it reaches a safe internal temperature to make sure all harmful bacteria is destroyed.
- Do not put the cooked meat or poultry on the same plate that held the raw pieces, as there could be harmful bacteria in the raw juices.
- Do not leave food out on the table for more than one hour in weather that is more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. All leftovers should always be refrigerated. Throw away anything that is left out longer than one hour. If the outdoor temperature is lower than 90 degrees Fahrenheit the time factor moves to two hours.
- Leftovers should be stored in containers that are shallow.
General Safety Tips for Outdoor Cooking
- Do not wear clothes that are loose-fitting when cooking outdoors.
- Always keep young children and pets away from any outdoor cooking areas.
- Only grill outdoors in areas that are well ventilated. Never use a grill in any type of enclosed location.
- Never pour or squirt lighter fluid or any type of fire starting fuel directly onto a lit grill. A flashback could occur causing serious burns to you or others standing nearby.
- Thoroughly drain meat, poultry and vegetables of all marinades before placing them on the grill to prevent flames from shooting up.
- If grill flames become too high or the grill gets too hot cut the oxygen supply to the flames by covering the grill. Never throw water onto the grill.
- Thoroughly clean your grill and all of your grilling utensils when you are finished using them. Store your grilling utensils inside when they are not being used.
- If you are using a gas grill make sure to check the connections on the propane tank between the fuel line and the tank.
- Always follow the instructions of the manufacturer on the proper method of lighting your specific gas grill.
- If you are using a charcoal grill allow the coals to cool completely before disposing of them. The best method is to cover them with water and mix to ensure all the coals are extinguished.
Additional Resources for Cooking Safely Outdoors
- Guidelines for Food Safety
- Food Safety: Grilling
- How to Thaw Meat Safely
- Internal cooking temperature chart from the United States Department of Agriculture
- Meat, fish and seafood temperature cooking chart from What's Cooking America
Enjoy Cooking Outdoors
By following outdoor cooking safety practices and tips you greatly reduce the possibility of anyone becoming ill from contaminated food or becoming injured from a preventable accident. You and your loved ones will have the pleasure of enjoying food cooked outdoors and spending time together while knowing that all safety measures are being taken.